Six soft tops for summer
The sun warms you as the wind ruffles your hair. Motoring at its very best - and here are the top ways to enjoy itIt’s raining as I write this. That’s no surprise. But what is amazing is Britain’s love of open-roofed cars. Despite our climate, we buy more of them than any other European country.
And now that what passes for summer is well on its way, buyers will be feeling that itch to swap their regular transport for something that’ll let them feel the wind ruffling their hair. But, which to buy? New or second-hand, the choice is broader than ever.
Whatever you pick, it’ll be dearer than a similar saloon, hatchback or coupe, to buy and to own. Insurance premiums will be higher, particularly if you live in a city and have to park on the street overnight. And, if you ever encounter problems with the folding roof or soft top, you should expect big bills. The good news, however, is that drop-tops keep out the noise and weather far more effectively than they used to. You really can use them every day, rain or shine, across all the seasons.
Here are six that motors.co.uk reckons deserve a place on your buyer’s short-list:
New: from £15,995
Used: from £8999
It’s the UK’s top-selling soft-top car and for good reasons: it looks just right and is nimble, alert and engaging to drive. Prices new and second-hand are steep but you can take comfort that it loses value as it ages more slowly than many other cars. Running costs, meanwhile, are kept sensible if it is covered by Mini’s TLC package, which covers regular servicing bills for the first five years. It may have four seats but space in the back pair is so tight that they are suitable only for children, while space in the boot is tiny. The soft-top is beautifully made and folds neatly with the help of an electric motor. The view out of the back is restricted when the roof is up and still isn’t great when it is lowered – so rear parking beepers are a fine idea.
New: from £16,345
Used: from £1000
The best two-seat sports car at its price. It’s direct, no-fuss and very satisfying to drive, at its best on a windy rural lane but also docile and easy to trickle through town. While Mazda has lately offered the option of a MX-5 with a folding metal roof, it’s the trad, cloth-roofed one that we prefer. Opening up to let the skies in takes a few seconds – you pop securing catches and simply push the roof back into a well behind the seats – while closing it is just as simple and quick. We’re now on to the third generation of the car but all are good and the early cars with pop-up headlamps are now collectable. Running costs are reasonable and the cars are hardy enough to use every day in all weathers. There’s even a fair amount of boot space in newer models.
Peugeot 207 CC
New: from £15,795
Used: from £9995
The most civilised small drop-top you can buy. Roof up, it delivers all the comfort, low-noise and security you’d want from a metal-topped car. But, press a button, and the roof whirrs to fold itself into the boot, leaving you 30secs later with a sleek and tidy open car. Pick between a rorty-sounding 1.6 petrol or an economical but cultured 1.6 diesel: both are good. The 207 feels solid to drive, roof up or down, and is as undemanding to own as the hatchback on which it is based. With the top in place, the car is cosy and hushed, even at motorway speeds. And while the model it replaced, the 206 CC, could sometimes let in water, we’ve not heard of a 207 spoiling an owner’s day. It’s a small car, though, so the rear seats are cramped, while boot space dwindles to almost nothing whenever the roof is stowed.
New: from £19,705
Used: from £12,695
If you liked metal building kits when you were a kid, you’ll love the Eos. There’s something about the way that the roof packs itself tidily and precisely into the boot that’ll have you raising and lowering it again and again – just to see it happen. At the wheel, it feels very much like a Golf to drive – and that’s good. While it dsn’t feel that sporty, it’s smooth over the bumps and responds quickly and accurately to wheel, gears and pedals. The cabin is sober-looking but classy and there’s good room for four grown-ups. The boot is big enough to take a couple’s holiday luggage. However, like most other steel-roofed open top cars, the space left for bags reduces by a big chunk whenever you stow its metal top. New or second-hand, it is pricey, though.
Audi A3 cabrio
New: from £19,675
Used: from £19,000
Cloth-roofed small Audi looks terrific inside and out. Fit and finish across its body and cabin is second to none and you can pick yours so that its cabin and roof match each other, while contrasting with the body colour. Dark red cabin/roof teams particularly well with white paint. Its soft top means that, unlike the Eos, you can stow plenty of luggage and leave the roof down, although legroom in the rear seats is very restricted. It’s neat and competent to drive in the way that all small Audis are, although you will notice a little body shake if you take it over broken road surfaces at in-town speeds, while Sport models have particularly stiff suspension that gives an unyielding ride. This model arrived in the UK only last year, and second-hand ones remain expensive for now.
Saab 9-3 cabrio
New: from £26,025
Used: from £2000
A handsome, solid and stylish soft top that is also one of the roomiest and most usable of the breed. Long model life – the original 9-3 came along in 1998 – means a broad choice of cars to suit all budgets. While the 9-3 isn’t as sweet to drive as rivals such as, say, BMW’s 3-series, it is extremely comfortable and provides sufficient room in its cabin for four grown-ups. There’s a big choice models, taking in 2.8 V6 petrols and also economical diesels. We’d point you towards modestly powered cars, though, because the 9-3 can struggle to cope with too much power supplied to its wheels. The 9-3 loses value quickly once it is second-hand, making it bargain-priced at a couple of years old. It’s a tough car, although insurance and other running expenses are high.
To view and buy all the cars here, new or second-hand, click on motors.co.uk